Thursday, June 21, 2012

Stop Telling Me What I Need

Women need to be protected.

Women long to be told they are beautiful by the men in their lives.

Women are gentle.

Women are born to nurture and support.

Women need to be led.

Women are easily swayed by their wayward emotions.

Women want a knight in shining armor.

Women want to be treated like princesses.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard these phrases (and others like them) coming from a man behind a pulpit. Back when I was still steeped in fundamentalist Christianity, these claims made me uncomfortable because even then I did not fit the mold. I was used to having other people tell me who I should be and what I should want, so I internalized these messages and tried to assimilate myself to this ideal of a woman. It never worked.

When I hear these types of sermons NOW, I am more than uncomfortable, I am angry. How many spirited young girls are sitting in this church, losing their identities while taking notes on how to be a “better” woman? How many innocent young boys are being programmed for misogyny because of the ignorant babbling of a pompous man?

When did the church become the authority on personalities and relationships? What makes them think they know what every woman wants and needs? What makes them think they can solve everyone’s marriage problems with the same list of rules and regulations? When are people going to realize that the church is NOT qualified to be giving out relationship advice? It’s great to incorporate your morality into your relationships, but faith does not replace experience.

For Example:
Professional Dating Advice: “Find somebody who “gets” you, someone who makes you happy. Don’t waste time on people who aren’t honest with you, or who don’t treat you respectfully.”

Church Dating Advice: Make a list of must-have criteria for a potential spouse. If you are a man, wait until you are ready to provide for a family, then seek out a woman who is chaste, modest, and godly.

Professional Relationship Advice: Take the time to learn about what your partner likes, wants, and needs. Every person is different, so don’t assume you know everything about your partner. Be open and honest about your own likes, wants, and needs as well. If your spouse seems upset, don’t assume you know what’s wrong, talk to him/her and make sure they know you are there for them. Good communication is key! If you want to have sex, be sure you know what your partner is comfortable with and talk about your expectations.

Church Relationship Advice: Men, be sure to always treat your girl like a fragile princess. Anticipate that she will always be more emotional and weak than you. Don’t bother her with discussion of sports or anything like that. Be sure to assert your manliness as much as possible. If she ever seems upset, it’s because she’s either hormonal or self conscious. This can be cured by telling her how pretty she is and giving her a box of chocolate. P.S. Avoid sexual contact at all cost, it will destroy your relationship.

Professional Marriage Advice: Be sure to talk through everything with your spouse. Talk about your expectations and feelings regularly. Marriage is a partnership, and you two are a team. You are both unique individuals, so only you can know what works best for you. If you ever feel like you can’t work through something on your own, there’s no shame in seeking a little help. Marriage counseling is good for even the healthiest couples because it facilitates better communication, which is key to a happy relationship!

Church Marriage Advice: God created you two to perfectly complement each other. Your marriage will be happiest and healthiest if you adhere to your god given rolls as men and women. If there is contention in your marriage, it is because one or the other of you is not obeying God’s directives for husbands and wives. If you feel like you are facing a challenge in your marriage that you cannot overcome, there is no shame in seeking a little help. Speak with your pastor or an elder at your church. They can pinpoint who is making what mistakes and help you get back on track towards fulfilling your marital rolls. Once you are, through the grace of God, doing everything required of you in your marriage: all else will follow!

The dating, relationship, and marriage advice I received from my church and parents did major damage to my relationships and eventual marriage. They made me think that there was some kind of heavenly blueprint that applied to every man. They made me think there was a list of does and don’ts that applied to every relationship. I was taught to “prepare” for marriage, but the problem is that there is no way to prepare for a relationship between two variables. There is no way to prepare for a future with a person you’ve never met.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that the church shouldn’t be handing out false expectations about relationships. They shouldn’t be going around telling boys what girls are like, and telling girls what boys are like. They shouldn’t be claiming to know why you’re struggling in your marriage. No two boys are the same, no two girls are the same, and no two relationships are the same. There is no cheat sheet. There is no heavenly blueprint. Nobody knows what you want or need except you. And believe it or not, nobody knows what I want and need except me (and my husband, because i tell him.)

So, Mr. Pastor Man behind the pulpit, you can keep your false expectations and stereotypes to yourself. The fact that I am a woman tells you literally nothing about me. Stop telling boys that all women are the same. And please stop telling me what I need.

4 comments:

  1. Awesome post ^^

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  2. Hi Sarah, nice blog, very important project the one to discover yourself. About this post, did you ever notice that in every organized religion, the woman is ALWAYS considered inferior and source of problems (and thus is justified to 'punish' her) ?
    EVERY single organized religion attack, punish, humiliate and justify crimes against women, if not actually commit crimes against women. Every "holy text" teach to subdue women, don't trust them, punish them.
    What you are describing in the post, is one of the many manifestations of such mindset. Be a "good" woman, follow the recipe created by few "men" or die in the hell. Sure, easy to see how this started, the usual amount of ignorance, fear of the unknown, fear of the difference. But TODAY, year 2012 still this consideration is simply intolerable.
    The only thing I don't get, is why usually the most religious persons, the most stronger believer of gods that teach to punish women, are women.

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    1. Although I mostly agree with you I think you should understand that not EVERY organised religion puts women down. For example paganism, wicca and the like are organised religions and they are usually women empowering. I'm sure there are other examples out there even if they aren't so prevalent ^^

      Signed: an agnostic atheist and sceptic.

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